Merry Christmas! The NSA Has Been Breaking the Law for Over a Decade

The news: In a vaguely suspicious Christmas Eve news dump, the National Security Agency released reports Wednesday night that detailed intelligence collection practices that violated the law over more than a decade, including unauthorized surveillance of Americans' overseas communications. 

According to The Verge, "the heavily redacted documents were released in response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act." The documents and incident reports, part of the required quarterly and annual reports to the President's Intelligence Oversight Board, cover the period from the fourth quarter of 2001 to the second quarter of 2013 and detail an alarming number of violations of American privacy.

 - Analysts often entered database queries that returned information on U.S. citizens who weren't targeted in the first place. In another 2012 case, an analyst conducted surveillance "on a U.S. organization in a raw traffic database without formal authorization because the analyst incorrectly believed that he was authorized to query due to a potential threat." The surveillance yielded nothing.

Editor's Note: Mar. 2, 2015

An earlier version of this article failed to cite a passage from The Verge in accordance with Mic editorial standards. The article has been updated to properly attribute the language to The Verge.